November 28, 2021

How do you fully restore a motorcycle?

Unsure how you fully restore a motorcycle? There are a few established ways to repair, protect and upgrade classic motorcycles. We’ll cover the basics of restoration, the most common motorcycles to restore and the easiest motorcycles for beginners to restore. We’ll talk you through the steps in motorcycle restoration and when it might be best to bring in professional support like Whites Bodyworks. How do you fully restore a motorcycle? We’ll break it down.

1. What does restoration mean?

Many people conflate a restoration with a rebuild. Motorcycle restoration involves bringing your bike back to its original condition. It’s more expensive and time-consuming than rebuilding or refurbishing a motorcycle. That’s because you’ll need to source original parts. According to Heritage, “You’ll need to strip it down to its bare minimum and go piece-by-piece, often having to spend additional time sourcing exactly what is required at each stage of the restoration process. However, if you have the cash and you have the time, then it can still be a very rewarding undertaking.” You can also get the support of a professional body shop to help with your motorcycle restoration. If you’re doing it yourself, remember that this will be a long process that can take years. So, make sure you’re committed to seeing the project through before you take anything apart.

2. What are the most common motorcycles for restoration?

According to Motorcycle Habit, “The easiest motorcycles to restore are generally Japanese brand motorcycles made between the late [’60s to late ’80s].  They are easy to find, easy to work on, and cost very little compared to other motorcycles.” Popular restoration brands include Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Suzuki. And, according to Bennetts, they recommend purchasing these while they’re affordable before they increase in value:

  • 1996 Suzuki GSF1200 Bandit
  • 2005 Suzuki GSX-R1000K5
  • 1985 Yamaha V-Max
  • 1993 Ducati M900 Monster
  • 1994 BMW R 1100 GS

A restoration of one of these popular cycles could see you realise a significant upside on your investment after you put the time into them. Consider joining owners forums and talking to other owners about their refurbishment journey. They may even have tips on where to find great parts that can save you time and money.

3. What is the easiest motorcycle to restore?

Any bike can be easy to restore, provided you can get the parts. According to Carole Nash, “As a rule, motorcycle manufacturers make spare parts for their bikes available for around 15 years after production ends, after which you’ll be looking for new, old stock (NOS), second hand, reconditioned, remanufactured or pattern parts. If your bike is popular, and there are loads on the road, then the chances are you’ll be able to find spares relatively easily – either second hand or new parts made by a specialist.” So you’ll want to find a bike that’s fairly popular so you’ve got the support and parts you need. Consider a rolling refurbishment instead of a bike that’s in pieces. That means you buy a bike that works but needs some reconditioning or replacement parts to really make it shine. That’s opposed to a motorcycle that’s already someone else’s failed project. They suggest trying your hand at a Honda C90 Super Cub or similar for your first motorcycle restoration project. Above all, make it fun and try to get enjoyment out of the process. Don’t go into your first restoration trying to make a ton of money or refurbish a rare bike. It will only lead to disappointment.

4. How much does it cost to restore a motorcycle?

Expect to spend around £1000 to restore the average classic motorcycle in the UK - if you do all the work yourself. If you hire someone to help, expect to pay 2-3 times more. According to Planit, “At present, the apprentice rate, for those aged under 19 or aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship, is £4.30 an hour (1 April 2021). Salaries for newly qualified motorcycle technicians tend to be around £16,000 a year, rising with experience from around £22,000 to over £30,000 a year.” Most experienced motorcycle restoration technicians charge around £30/hour. That means a week of expert work on your bike will be over £1000. This can double or triple your outlay. So be aware of what work your bike needs, how much your garage charges and how much you can tackle yourself in order to properly budget for your project.

5. What are the steps in motorcycle restoration?

The steps in a motorcycle restoration will vary based on the condition of your bike and if it is kept outdoors. But here are the basic steps in a motorcycle restoration:

  1. Create a dedicated workspace.
  2. Buy a bike lift.
  3. Buy the owner’s manual for your bike.
  4. Take a picture of everything before you take it apart.
  5. Strip all the parts to clean them, bag them and photograph them.
  6. Create a list of everything that’s not in working condition.
  7. Order parts in order of importance and note on the list what’s arriving when.
  8. Jobs should follow this order (generally): battery, carbs, fuel tank, rust, electrics, spark plugs, brakes, consumables and lastly any cosmetics.

Anything that you’ve replaced that’s still in good working order you can sell on eBay or Facebook to other eager motorcycle enthusiasts.

6. Why do I want professional help with motorcycle restoration?

If this looks like too much work and you just want a nice-looking classic bike to roll around on, then it’s best to talk to a professional. They can help you fit pieces that require expensive specialist tools or help source hard-to-get parts. There’s no need to have the entire contents of a Kwik Fit in your garage for a small job you’ll not need to do again. Maybe you had a difficult time sourcing a part and want to be 100% sure it’s fit correctly to prevent riding damage. Call us. We can help you with your classic motorcycle restoration and repairs no matter what type of classic bike you have. Talk to our helpful team of restorers today.


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